Virgin Money London Marathon 2016

So after 4 months of dedicated training, the day finally arrived: London Marathon day. This was my first London Marathon and I was keen to put in a good performance after prioritising this for the first part of the year – missing fell races and plenty of winter off-road running. Having previously done 3 marathons, I learnt this week that my last 2 were in fact now invalid due to the Manchester Marathon course being 380m short. Nice.

I was was pleased with how my training had panned out, culminating in a half marathon of 1:19 and a 20 miler of 2:12. I ran the 20 miler (San Domenico 20, which was hilly) at perspective marathon pace, 630/mile and came through comfortably. After some deliberating, I decided to aim for 6:27/mile for the marathon which would give me a time of 2:49, with the plan that if I found that too fast I could drop back to 6:30/mile which I knew from experience I could handle.

Lily and I went down to London early on Saturday morning with North Derbyshire Running Club who had hired a bus and arranged a marathon package for the weekend. Ed and Helen from Belper Harriers were also there, and it was nice to be with some familiar faces and great company. After swinging by the Expo at the Excel Centre to register, we made our way to the Marriott Hotel at BexleyHeath. Lily and I had a dip in the pool and jacuzzi, and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. Following a nice carb-rich dinner, it was early to bed for an early start.

We got dropped off at the start and made our way to the Good for Age pen where both Ed and I were starting. It was a cool morning with a considerable breeze, but thankfully the rain from earlier had cleared. I’m glad I had packed an old t-shirt and bin bag to wear to stay warm on the start line! Lily and Helen left us and went off further down the course to the 10k point.

I started well, hitting my splits and was pleased with how the first few miles were going. It was an undulating start, and I soon decided to drop back to 6:30/mile pace. Feeling comfortable, I continued at this pace through 10k, seeing Lily and Helen which was great. Cutty Sark was incredible, with the crowds like at a football stadium, and the noise deafening.

Still pleased with my pace and feeling comfortable, I went through the 12 mile mark, but suddenly going towards Tower Bridge (where, incidentally, the crowds were unbelievable) a stitch on my right side came on, quite sharply. From experience stitches in my right are usually down to pacing, but again from experience, I knew my pacing was good. This slowed me down going over the bridge, and for the next mile the stitch stayed. Going through half way (1:26), I was now worried thinking my race and plans were out the window as I still had 13 miles to go. I battled on, seeing Lily and Helen again at Canary Warf at mile 16 and again at Westminster at mile 25. Around the 15 mile mark, since the stitch was still lingering, I decided to ease off and just go for sub 3 hours, and at least try and enjoy the last 10 miles. As I had gone through halfway in 1:26, I knew I had time in the bank, and therefore eased off, running the last 10 miles at an average split of XXX/mile. In the end I finished in 2:57:22, so very happy to get my first sub 3 marathon. It wasn’t my greatest run, and I know there’s more in there and I’m capable of a faster marathon time.

I’ve been trying to work out why the stitch struck as I’m positive it wasn’t down to pacing as this was the pace I’d run San Domenico in, and with it kicking in after only 12 miles, this is very early in the race. A few thoughts are that I’d not slept too well the last 2/3 nights, that the food I’d been eating the day before and on the morning of the race was slightly different to usual (the porridge in the hotel was creamy and with milk opposed to soya milk), or maybe the occasion got to me? I’m not sure, but I still loved the day, and the experience. A fantastic event with incredible support and atmosphere the whole way round and a must for any runner to experience! I can see why they say it’s the best marathon in the world, and the crowds throughout were like nowhere else. Despite previously saying no more road marathons, there is unfinished business, so maybe one more next year… The immediate question now is, will I be recovered in time for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks fell race next weekend?!

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